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On the other hand, Laon Cathedral , begun just before Notre-Dame, boasted five towers; two on the facade, two on the transept, and a central lantern. An additional two were planned but not built. The informal competition for the tallest church in Europe went on throughout the Gothic period, sometimes with disastrous results.

Beauvais Cathedral had the tallest tower meters or feet , completed in , for a brief time, until its tower collapsed in the wind in Lincoln Cathedral Today the tallest combined Gothic tower and spire in the UK belongs to Salisbury Cathedral , meters or feet , built — In Italy , the tower, if present, is almost always detached from the building, as at Florence Cathedral , and is often from an earlier structure. In England , Germany and Scandinavia this is often the arrangement, but an English cathedral may also be surmounted by an enormous tower at the crossing.

Statues of Saints are literally "pillars of the church", supporting the portal of Chartres Cathedral. A stryge on west facade of Notre-Dame de Paris. Gargoyles were the rainspouts of Notre-Dame de Paris. Chimera on Notre-Dame de Paris west facade. Gargoyle on Brussels Town Hall.

Gothic Cathedrals: Architecture, Design

Gargoyle on Siena Cathedral 13th century. Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. The exteriors and interiors of Gothic cathedrals, particularly in France, were lavishly ornamented with sculpture and decoration on religious themes, designed for the great majority of parishioners who could not read. They were described as "Books for the poor. Each feature of the Cathedral had a symbolic meaning.


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The main portals at Notre Dame de Paris , for instance, represented the entrance to paradise, with the last judgement depicted on the tympanum over the doors, showing Christ surrounded by the apostles, and by the signs of the zodiac, representing the movements of the heavens. The columns below the tympanum are in the form of statues of saints, literally reprinting them as "the pillars of the church. Each Saint had his own symbol; a winged lion stood for Saint Mark ; an eagle with four wings meant Saint John the Apostle , and a winged bull symbolized Saint Luke. Sculpted angels had specific functions, sometimes as heralds, blowing trumpete, or holding up columns, as guardian angels; or holding crowns of thorns or crosses, as symbols of the crucifixion of Christ, or waving a container with incense, to illustrate theirfunction at the throne of God.

Floral and vegetal decoration was also very common, representing the Garden of Eden; grapes represented the wines of Eucharist. The tympanum over the central portal on the west facade of Notre Dame de Paris vividly illustrates the Last Judgement , with figures of sinners being led off to hell, and good Christians taken to heaven. The sculpture of the right portal shows the coronation of the Virgin Mary , and the left portal shows the lives of saints who were important to Parisians, particularly Saint Anne , the mother of the Virgin Mary.

The exteriors of cathedrals and other Gothic churches were also decorated with sculptures of a variety of fabulous and frightening grotesques or monsters. These included the chimera , a mythical hybrid creature which usually had the body of a lion and the head of a goat, and the Strix or stryge, a creature resembling an owl or bat , which was said to eat human flesh. The strix appeared in classical Roman literature; it was described by the Roman poet Ovid , who was widely read in the Middle Ages, as a large-headed bird with transfixed eyes, rapacious beak, and greyish white wings.

The gargoyles , which were added to Notre Dame in about , had a more practical purpose. They were the rain spouts of the cathedral, designed to divide the torrent of water which poured from the roof after rain, and to project it outwards as far as possible from the buttresses and the walls and windows so that it would not erode the mortar binding the stone. To produce many thin streams rather than a torrent of water, a large number of gargoyles were used, so they were also designed to be a decorative element of the architecture.

The rainwater ran from the roof into lead gutters, then down channels on the flying buttresses, then along a channel cut in the back of the gargoyle and out of the mouth away from the cathedral. Many of the statues, particularly the grotesques, were removed from facade in the 17th and 18th century, or were destroyed during the French Revolution. They were replaced with figures in the Gothic style, designed by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc , during the 19th century restoration. Similar figures appear on the other Gothic Cathedrals of France. Another common feature of Gothic cathedrals in France was a labyrinth or maze on the floor of the nave near the choir, which symbolized the difficult and often complicated journey of a Christian life before attaining paradise.

Most labyrinths were removed by the 18th century, but a few, like the one at Amiens Cathedral , have been reconstructed, and the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral still exists essentially in its original form. Coutances Cathedral in Normandy — Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy — Interior of Auxerre Cathedral in Burgundy — Albi Cathedral , originally begun as a fortress, in Southwest France — Polychrome interior of Albi Cathedral — Toulouse Cathedral 13th century. The Palm Tree of the Jacobins church , 28 meters high Toulouse , From the 12th century onwards, the Gothic style spread from Northern France to other regions of France and gradually to the rest of the Europe.

It was often carried by the highly skilled craftsmen who had trained in the Ile-de-France and then carried their crafts to other cities.

Why Gothic Architecture is AWESOME

The style was adapted to local styles and materials. In Normandy , the new naves were usually very long, sometimes more than one hundred meters, and, from the long Romanesque tradition, the walls were thicker than in northern France, and had shorter buttresses. The interiors were narrower than in the north, and were given a strong sense of verticality by long and narrow bays and lancet arches.

What is “gothic”?

Rose windows were rare, replaced on the exterior by a large bay in tiers point. The facades had less sculptural decoration; decoration in the interior was largely in geometric forms. Norman Gothic also usually featured a profusion of towers, lanterns and spires; spires and spires sometimes were seventy meters high. In Burgundy , which had a long Romanesque style tradition, a lantern tower was often included, and cathedrals often had a narrow passage the length of the cathedral at the level of the stained glass windows. In the Southwest of France, the walls were thicker, with narrow openings, and doubled with arches.

The flying buttress were rarely used, replaced by heavy abutments with chapels between. The Gothic cathedrals were often built with brick and tile rather than stone. They generally had thick walls and narrow windows, and were braced by heavy abutments rather than flying buttresses. The form of the tower of the basilica of Saint-Sernin was copied by several cathedrals in the south, while the old nave of Toulouse Cathedral gave the model of the single nave which was generally used in Southern French Gothic architecture although some churches had two or three naves of equal height.

Gothic: A Revolution of Light and Space

Some Gothic cathedrals in the Midi took unusual form; the Cathedral of Albi — was originally built as fortress, then converted to a cathedral. Albi Cathedral has another very distinctive feature; a colorful interior and painted ceiling. Tradition refers to this masterpiece as "palm tree", because the veins gush out of the smooth shaft of the column like palm trees. The facade of Toulouse Cathedral is unusual; it is the combination of two unfinished cathedral buildings, begun in the 13th century and finally put together.

Toulouse Cathedral has no flying buttresses; it is supported by massive contreforts the height of the building, with chapels between. West front of York Minster Decorated Gothic.


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Gloucester Cathedral Perpendicular Gothic — The Gothic style was imported very early into England, in part due to the close connection with the Duchy of Normandy , which until was still ruled by the Kings of England. The first period is generally called early English Gothic , and was dominant from about to The first part of major English cathedral to feature the new style was the choir of Canterbury Cathedral , begun about It was created by a French master builder, William of Sens.

He added several original touches, including colored marble pavement, double columns in the arcades, and engaged slender colonettes which reached up to the vaults, borrowed from the design of Laon Cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral — is also a good example of early Gothic, with the exception of its tower and spire, which were added in The second period of English Gothic is known as Decorated Gothic.

Details of Gothic architecture

It is customarily divided into two the "Geometric" style —90 and the "Curvilinear" style — , and it is similar to the French Rayonnant style, with an emphasis on curvilinear forms, particularly in the windows. This period saw detailed stone carving reach its peak, with elaborately carved windows and capitals , often with floral patterns, or with an accolade, a carved arch over a window decorated with pinnacles and a fleuron , or carved floral element. The rib vaults of the Decorated Gothic became extremely ornate, with a profusion of ribs which were purely ornamental.

The vaults were often decorated with hanging stone pendants. The columns also became more ornamental, as at Peterborough Cathedral, with ribs spreading upward. The Perpendicular Gothic c. As the name suggests, its emphasis was on clear horizontal and vertical lines, meeting at right angles. Columns extended upwards all the way to the roof, giving the interior the appearance of a cage of glass and stone, as in the nave of Gloucester Cathedral. The Tudor Arch appeared, wider and lower and often framed by moldings, which was used to create larger windows and to balance the strong vertical elements.

The design of the rib vaults became even more complex, including the fan vault with pendants used in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey — A distinctive characteristic of English cathedrals is their extreme length, and their internal emphasis upon the horizontal, which may be emphasised visually as much or more than the vertical lines. Each English cathedral with the exception of Salisbury has an extraordinary degree of stylistic diversity, when compared with most French, German and Italian cathedrals. It is not unusual for every part of the building to have been built in a different century and in a different style, with no attempt at creating a stylistic unity.

The rose windows

Unlike French cathedrals, English cathedrals sprawl across their sites, with double transepts projecting strongly and Lady Chapels tacked on at a later date, such as at Westminster Abbey. In the west front, the doors are not as significant as in France, the usual congregational entrance being through a side porch. The West window is very large and never a rose, which are reserved for the transept gables. The west front may have two towers like a French Cathedral, or none. There is nearly always a tower at the crossing and it may be very large and surmounted by a spire.

The distinctive English east end is square, but it may take a completely different form. Both internally and externally, the stonework is often richly decorated with carvings, particularly the capitals. Rear of Cologne Cathedral , Cologne , Germany — Matthias Church in Budapest , Hungary 11th—15th centuries.

Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna , Austria — Between the 13th and 16th centuries, Gothic cathedrals were constructed in most of the major cities of northern Europe. For the most part, they followed the French model, but with variations depending upon local traditions and the materials available.


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